At a moment when the future feels precarious, there is one thing that reliably brings me a sense of stability. Whenever the mood strikes, and with minimal effort, I can enjoy any of the following: steaming, slippery-skinned xiao long bao, also known as soup dumplings, from Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao, a Flushing restaurant that makes some of the best in the city; warm, craggy butter-crunch cookies from the Good Batch, a Brooklyn bakery known for its ice-cream sandwiches; flaky, coiled burek (a pastry popular in the Balkans, Turkey, and Israel) stuffed with cheese or ground beef, hand-rolled by Balkan Bites, a two-woman outfit that normally sells them at coffee shops and the Queens Night Market.
All are indefinitely stored in my freezer. As we hang in the balance, awaiting a new normalcy, the freezer hangs with us, blissfully immune to the passage of time. What long sprang to mind when I thought of frozen food was a sad, sloppy Hungry-Man TV dinner or, worse, a shrivelled Lean Cuisine. But ice cream is not the only food that freezes well. In France, a chain of frozen-food grocery stores called Picard has been incredibly popular for years. Trader Joe’s has been upgrading the freezer aisle in the U.S. (its frozen pains au chocolat are excellent), and the frozen-pizza market has been boosted by the Bushwick restaurant Roberta’s line of vacuum-sealed Neapolitan pies. In the past year, I have received gifts of frozen pasta sauce, ferried from a beloved red-sauce joint called Minard’s Spaghetti Inn, in Clarksburg, West Virginia, and of frozen smoked-brisket burnt ends mail-ordered from Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que.
Some New York restaurants, including Nan Xiang, which sells dumplings in bags of thirty or fifty ($20-$26), have long peddled frozen items. Others, like Balkan Bites, which ships burek nationally ($18 for four), are new to the concept and have mastered it with aplomb—but then an open secret of restaurant kitchens is that the freezer is a crucial tool, despite its reputation as an enabler of corners cut. Frozen food is a shortcut, but so is takeout, and most takeout is not actually built to travel. Restaurant-quality frozen food is as fast, if not faster, nearly as effortless, and often more delicious.
The par-cooked frozen pitas ($5 for five) I ordered from Miriam, an Israeli restaurant in Park Slope, puffed beautifully after I followed directions to run them under water and char them over the low flame of a burner. I got a wonderful dinner out of frozen pão de queijo, Brazilian-style cheese buns, from Colonia Verde, a pan-Latin restaurant in Clinton Hill, which I baked and used for sliders; they came, as part of a kit ($34), with seasoned ground lamb and a chipotle cream sauce. A frozen Chile Garlic Beef Shank Pot Pie from Petee’s Pie Company ($14) required nothing but a daub of egg wash and thirty minutes in the oven.
A frozen-food startup called Daily Harvest, which advertises on the subway, seems to me misguided, dystopically packaging New Agey “harvest bowls” and soups in paper cups to be eaten on the go (although I do like the smoothies). But, last year, Joshua Brau, who has worked at Chipotle and Blue Apron, and Micah Fredman, who spent time in the kitchens of Gramercy Tavern and Eleven Madison Park, started Ipsa Provisions—tagline “fine food frozen”—out of a shared commercial kitchen. Available, as of now, for Brooklyn and Manhattan delivery only, their soups, stews, and casseroles, which each serve two to three people, are the sort your friend who is an exceptional home cook might drop off when you’re under the weather. I tried them first when I was on maternity leave, and, even after I had resumed restaurant reviewing, I found myself ordering more: spicy beef-and-kimchi stew ($23) that comes with frozen Korean rice cakes, to be stirred in; Moroccan-style chicken ($23) dotted with prunes, apricots, and Castelvetrano olives, to be served over Israeli couscous. A business plan that once seemed like an alternative to restaurants now looks like a blueprint for them. ♦
Source: Thanks https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/06/01/restaurants-reclaim-the-frozen-dinner